A love letter to the web

My first computer was a Commodore 64. I can still remember the commands (LOAD "*",8,1) to load up what are still some of the best games I can think of; Impossible Mission, Zork I/II/III, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, Maniac Mansion, Spy vs Spy!

And beyond games, there was creative stuff too; The Print Shop, and Cut & Paste (this was when a feature like copy and pasting words it's own application). I wrote stories, I printed huge banners on dot matrix printers. I felt like I was conjuring artifacts out of the ether. It felt akin to watching my dad, an accomplished timber framer, turn trees into homes. I was 10 years old, and was able to make thoughts appear on screen and dance around. It was magic.

[I won't even get started on what it was like when we got our first Mac, democratizing typography, desktop publishing, and drawing tools overnight. Without a bit of hyperbole, I will credit the Steves Jobs and Wozniak with creating the tools that have provided me with a design career, and contributed to my design obsession.]

And then we got a modem.

When I first got to use our home phone to turn sounds into data, a whole magical world of other computers came rushing into our house. BBS', IRC, Usenet, file trading, txt files as welcome mats. We were connecting with each other. After years spent in basements, we were now everywhere.

And when the World Wide Web came along not too long after, pairing visual experiences and information with that connectivity, I was hooked. It was like the encyclopedia had come alive, and I could follow any route I wished to more knowledge. For a kid from a very small town in rural Michigan, it was revelatory.

My career aspirations shifted quickly; from architect to designer and photographer (my other obsession, which tickled a lot of the same right brain/left brain notions of order and creativity, technology and art), and I spent all of my time making web pages to publish my designs, my thoughts, my photography, and finding community in those pursuits. On top of that, I managed to make a career from those magical digital incantations that had been a hobby, and that felt great. It was a world of enthusiasts. I was too young for the first round of computer clubs in the 70s, when people would get together to geek out over what they discovered was possible, but I think the early web felt similar. There was enthusiasm again.

And while the web has since become the greatest platform for business that the world as ever seen, it's also managed to start feeling stale. Where "Web 1" was an enthusiastic DIYers dream, and Web 2  started out that way, it quickly went from a place where we could all build an own-able online presence to a place where our online presence is owned by the biggest businesses ever. Platforms became walled gardens, and algorithms replaced curation.


But something has come along in the last few years that feels like those early days, and fits right into that technology-and-culture combined construct that feels worth of upping the version number. Web 3.0. The new element in this version is that value/money/commerce and ownership is fused right in, rather than something to be built on top (or provided by someone else). People are building things that have values to others, and they are building a living for themselves as they do it. The enthusiasm is back, and while it may be off putting to some, as fervency often can be, it's making the internet, and technology, and media and arts and everything else, fun again.

It's the wild west right now, and I'm still wrapping my head around it, but consider me a web enthusiast again.

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